Particle exposure in the workplace

Søren Hanghøj Møller

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Particle exposure in the workplace


Using advanced sensor technology, a new project investigates whether Danish companies can identify critical areas and processes that contribute to poor air quality. This will enable companies to target efforts to improve the working environment.

Many companies face challenges with particle pollution, such as dust, which can have serious health consequences for employees. But companies lack detailed knowledge about the extent of exposure. Therefore, the Danish Technological Institute, in collaboration with the Danish National Research Center for the Working Environment, has launched the project: Implementation of sensor-based workplace measurements for improved management of particle exposures in the working environment, supported by the Danish Working Environment Research Foundation.

“Companies have become more aware that particles and fibers have greater adverse health effects than we previously thought. But many lack knowledge about what they actually have in the air and whether the various reduction measures, such as extraction, have the desired effect” - Søren Hanghøj Møller, Consultant, Danish Technological Institute.


Real-time data with low cost sensors

Particles and dust are often not visible to the naked eye, but are harmful to health over time when inhaled in too high concentrations. Therefore, having access to real-time data can create value for companies so that precautions can be taken at the times and during the work processes where they are most needed and where they will make a real difference to the health and well-being of employees.

Limit values for fine particles depend on the substance and are given in terms of mass or number concentration. The typical methods of measuring pollution in the work environment, such as filter collection, only provide the average value over a longer period of time. Short-term periods of potentially very high particle pollution are therefore not captured by these methods and can give a misleading picture of pollution levels in the workplace.

Therefore, the project will develop a sensor solution consisting of low-cost sensors that continuously measure particle levels with high time resolution. The sensor solution will be tested in four Danish companies from different industries. By placing the sensors strategically, the goal is to enable each company to identify problematic areas and processes and thus target the efforts against exposure.


Sensor technology and testing

In the project, low-cost sensors from Alphasense have been used to measure particle levels with high time resolution. A strength of the Alphasense OPC (optical particle counter) is that it can separate large and small particles from each other, which is useful for exposure assessment. However, at low particle concentrations, the sensor has challenges distinguishing between particles of different sizes. In addition, measurements from the sensor are characterized by some noise, but the Danish Technological Institute has developed solutions to deal with this, including the use of a running mean value over 1 minute, which shows a good match with reference equipment. 
The specialists at the Danish Technological Institute have built up extensive expertise in integrating sensors like Alphasense OPC into systems in combination with other measurements. The specialists have used skills in designing and conducting lab experiments to characterize sensor properties and advanced data analysis of sensor data from varying environments. Preliminary results show that a simple global scaling of OPC-N3 provides a satisfactory match with reference equipment, while minor mismatch between OPC-N3 and reference equipment could potentially be due to varying flow in the latter. 


Project title
Implementation of sensor-based workplace measurements for improved management of particle exposures in the work environment

Project period
March 2023 - May 2025

Project type

Project sum
4,396,717 DKK

To develop and implement a sensor-based solution for real-time measurement of particle exposure in workplaces to improve the chemical work environment.

Danish Technological Institute and the Danish National Research Center for the Working Environment

Supported SDGs
Sustainable Development Goal 3, Health and Well-being.
Sustainable Development Goal 8, Decent work and economic growth